What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a healing system developed in China beginning over 2000 years ago. It incorporates multiple modalities, the most famous being acupuncture, in which specific points on the body are stimulated with thin needles to improve health. The simplest TCM theory explains that there is a life force in the body called Qi. When Qi courses smoothly through the body like a flowing river, there is health and ease. When Qi is blocked, like a river full of sticks and mud, there is pain and disease. The goal of TCM is to restore the free flow of Qi which brings the body back into a state of balance.
What can Chinese Medicine treat?
In an official report, the World Health Organization (WHO) made an extensive list of conditions that have been shown through clinical trials to be effectively treated with acupuncture. They include:
• pain of various types (headache, low back pain, neck pain, sciatica, tennis elbow, knee pain, periarthritis of the shoulder, sprains, facial pain, dental pain, TMJ, rheumatoid arthritis, postoperative pain, dysmenorrhea)
• induction of labor
• correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation)
• morning sickness
• nausea and vomiting
• allergic rhinitis, including hayfever
• stroke sequela
• adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
• peptic ulcer
What else does Chinese Medicine encompass beyond acupuncture?
Herbal Prescriptions: The Chinese Medicinal pharmacopeia includes plant, mineral and animal products in formulas to treat specific health conditions
Cupping: The use of cups secured to the body by suction in order to improve blood flow and relieve pain. This procedure can result in circular marks on the skin which will dissipate over the following days.
Moxibustion: A warming technique which uses a cigar shaped stick of the mugwort plant to warm and stimulate specific points on the body
Tui Na & Acupressure: Chinese Therapeutic Massage
Physical Exercise: Tai Chi and Qi Gong are mind-body exercises which improve health
Nutrition: The prescription of or avoidance of specific foods to improve health
How many sessions will I need?
This can vary individually and will depend on your state of health as well as the type of condition you seek treatment for. For a common cold, you may only need one or two treatments plus an herbal prescription before you feel back to normal. For arthritis pain that you have had for years, it will likely take longer.
For most conditions, we like to see you for 4 to 6 treatments and then assess our progress. The effect of acupuncture treatments are cumulative, and therefore it can take a few sessions to see results, although sometimes results can be gratifyingly instantaneous.
A general guideline is that that the longer you have had any condition, the more treatments it will take to resolve it. Chronic patterns are settled into the body and can take longer to change. Once the desired outcome has been achieved, it is advisable to come back for monthly maintenance visits, to make sure you continue to feel good.
How does acupuncture work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine has poetic terms for describing disharmony in the body. Terminology can include “Qi Stagnation,” “Evil Wind” and “Damp Heat.” While this may sound esoteric, it was the way Chinese physicians made sense of pathogens and health over 2000 years ago.
Today we know that acupuncture works by directly stimulating endorphin production with the needles to reduce pain. Acupuncture may also activate the endocrine system including the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, resulting in a many systemic effects, such as improved sleep or immune response. It has also been documented to change secretion of neurotransmitters and changes in the regulation of blood flow. A recent study showed that acupuncture can even help nerves to regenerate.
There are likely countless further discoveries that western medicine will make as to what exactly happens in the body when acupuncture needles are inserted, and they will continue to confirm what TCM practitioners have known for hundreds of years: that acupuncture can help heal an incredible number of health conditions.
What if I’m needle-phobic?
Acupuncturists in California use disposable needles that are thinner than a cat’s whisker. Most people fear needles because as children we had to endure many large hollow needles injecting liquid medicine into us. However, one of those regular hollow hypodermic needles could fit up to 10 tiny acupuncture needles inside!
Don’t worry if you aren’t ready to try acupuncture yet, we can still begin the healing process with needle free methods such as herbal prescriptions, therapeutic acupressure massage, cupping, or magnetic therapy.